Nurturing Talent: Inspiration Overcomes Limitations


I recently delivered the opening remarks at City Wide's yearly Franchise Convention, and the theme of my talk was “Grow Your People; Grow Your Company.” My goal was to give our franchisees concrete ways to attract and retain talented people. This is a constant pursuit for most growing businesses, and I strongly believe that our ability to do so is the difference between struggle and success.

I also believe that as leaders in business, we must accept 100% responsibility for developing our team. This responsibility allows us to no longer see ourselves as victims of circumstance, but instead own the solution and gain energy by being in control. Take it from Theodore Roosevelt, who said:

“The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

What Holds Us Back?

There are many schools of thought when it comes to developing talent at work. One that I find particularly inspiring comes from the book The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. In one passage, he describes baby circus elephants and their early-life training. They begin the first six months of their life tethered to the ground by six feet of rope. Eventually, they can be controlled by a tiny nylon strand, because they mistake the cord for their limits and simply comply with the wishes of the trainers.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? We often feel victimized by these same self-limitations that keep us from accomplishing what we desire. Instead of a nylon strand holding us back, we have our “self talk” — the way we talk to ourselves inside our heads. I like to compare the human brain to a super computer, and our “self talk” to the software that it is running. If we continually tell ourselves that we don't have options, that we can't do any better, that we aren't responsible for our own growth and happiness, we create limitations that hold us back.

The Opposite of Limitation

In Kelly's The Dream Manager, a fictional janitorial company is struggling with high employee turnover and low engagement and morale. Although the company is fictional, we all know that this problem is very real. A recent Gallup Poll demonstrated that only 13% of polled employees worldwide consider themselves engaged at work. Engaged is defined as “psychologically committed and likely to be making positive contributions.” That is only one out of every eight workers! How can we fix this problem?

“An organization can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who drive that organization are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves.” – The Dream Manager

Kelly explores the power of dreams to overcome self-imposed limitations and improve engagement and morale. Not the dreams we have while we're asleep, but our goals for our lives — who we want to become. By paying attention to employee's dreams, we can help them feel valued, feel heard, and release them from the “self talk” that keeps them un-engaged, unhappy, and separated from their dreams.

The Dream Manager inspires me to focus on empowering people at the individual level. Leaders should dedicate some of their time and energy to helping employees realize the limitations they have placed on themselves. It often takes more than just desire to make a change. It takes a facilitator. Leaders should welcome this responsibility and embrace the ability to encourage and motivate their teams!

Dreaming At Home

Since I am a father as well as a businessman, I always relate work lessons to home life, and vice versa. This is a big one for parents — we often talk to our kids about their dreams and what they want to be when they grow up. When our kids are young and imaginative, we can spend hours talking about achieving their wildest dreams, but sometimes in the teen years this conversation gets lost. It's so important to keep talking to our kids about their dreams and ambitions so that we can encourage them to live their purpose in life.

Just as a company “can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who drive [it] are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves,” a family will only be at its best when all family members are striving together to become better. Together, at work and at home, we make each other stronger by removing self-imposed limitations and working towards our dreams.

How do you encourage others to work towards their dreams? Share by tweeting @JeffOddo!